How a Project Manager plans a Disneyland Trip

July 28, 2014

A Disney Vacation is a Project By Marc Barringer

There are many ways to plan a vacation, but planning a Disney vacation is a much larger task than many know—especially if it is one of your first visits to a park. As a project manager by trade, I approach a Disney vacation exactly like I would approach a project at work. It may seem a bit tedious at first, I promise you that in the long run it will save you in time and mistakes.

Planning starts way before you even talk to Disney reservations or a Travel Agent that specializes in Disney Vacations. On a side note, those are the only two ways I would book a Disney vacation. If you go with a travel agency that does not specialize in Disney, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities—like a friend who was told he could book his dinner reservations for Walt Disney World about a month before his arrival date in August, neglecting to mention to him he could book as far out as 180 days.

As a Project Manager the first thing I do when working a project, or planning a Disney vacation, is to create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). A WBS is a list of tasks that are required to successfully accomplish a project. It helps me to break down the project into 5 different Phases: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Closeout. I use Microsoft Project to do the WBS, but it can be easily done on a spreadsheet or with pen and paper. My current “project” has 55 lines and has a duration of 173 Days. It is my Disneyland Vacation with my daughter—her first trip to a Disney Park. The picture below is part of my WBS for my Disneyland vacation. Dates have been removed for privacy sake, but you want to see the start and finish date for each task so you are not late on anything.

In today’s technologically advanced world, project management has evolved with the integration of AI-powered tools and platforms. Just as the author applies project management principles to plan a Disney vacation, professionals across various industries rely on sophisticated software development project management platform to streamline their project workflows. These platforms offer comprehensive features for creating work breakdown structures, scheduling tasks, monitoring progress, and ensuring timely completion. They enhance collaboration, minimize errors, and optimize resource allocation, making project management more efficient and effective. As we witness the convergence of project management methodologies with AI technology, platforms like Socratic Works provide invaluable support to project managers, empowering them to achieve success in their endeavors.


Proper planning of a project, or a Disney Vacation, is the bulk of the work needed for a successful vacation. Planning it this way, for me, helps me be aware of important hard dates like when I can start booking reservations at restaurants, special events or for my daughter’s princess makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. If you notice at the top right of the WBS, it says My Disney Vacation Project is 97% complete. I am 34 days away, at the time of this writing, from my Disneyland Vacation.   There is an old cliché in the project management community: “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail”. It holds true with a major vacation like a Disney vacation as well.

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The Execution of your Disney vacation starts before you think it does.   Notice in my WBS, my project execution starts with booking the hotel, flight and purchasing the tickets. Obviously, the best part of the Execution Phase of this project will be my time in the parks with my daughter.

The last two phases of the project are no less important than the first three. Monitoring and Closing the project. Monitoring your project is something you would normally do, I hope, for any vacation. You’re going to check to make sure your execution is going as planned. You verify your reservations have been captured as you want them and that your plane is departing at the scheduled time, etc.

Closing out the project/vacation is a critical phase that many people and professionals in project management fail to fully complete, but is vital to the success of your next vacation as well as your memories. I pre-ordered the Photopass+ picture package Disneyland offers, so I’ll need to order them before Disney’s expiration deadline when I get home. I also need to document what worked well and what I missed so when I plan my next Disney vacation with my daughter, I have a better plan, and hopefully, a better trip.

If you take the time to properly plan your vacation, it will significantly reduce your stress levels as the vacation date approaches and will allow you to better enjoy your time in the parks!


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